November 23, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
43°F
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Day of Atonement roundtable focuses on solidarity

LORAIN — Speakers preached community solidarity during roundtable discussions at Sunday’s 16th annual Day of Atonement.

Some 200 people attended the event at Greater Victory Christian Ministries at 559 Reid Ave. The event included food, music and prayer.

With young black men among the biggest perpetrators and victims of violent crime — 93 percent of single offender-single victim homicides in 2005 involved blacks killing blacks, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics — speakers said residents need to provide family stability and jobs for young black men. Noting the income inequality in the U.S. — the richest 1 percent went from earning 9 percent of all wealth in 1974 to 23.5 percent in 2007, according to economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez — panelist Greg Coleridge said the poor and middle class have been conditioned to believe they have no power.

Coleridge, director of economic justice for the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker group, said area corporate leaders and politicians need to be held accountable for the inequality.

“Educate, advocate and, most important, like the people right now all over the world, organize,” Coleridge said to applause. “Organize not for the sake of organizing, but for power.”

Diana Marrero-Pinto, a member of the Alcohol & Drug Addiction Services Board of Lorain County, lamented the high levels of domestic violence and single-mother homes. She blamed absentee fathers for not disciplining their sons.

“You outgrow fear, but you never outgrow respect,” she said. “But there’s a time when fear becomes the greatest resource. Especially for young boys.”

Ricky Smith, an ex-convict who works for the Urban Minority Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Outreach Program helping prisoners reintegrate into society, said companies need to be willing to give felons a second chance to reduce recidivism. He said some ex-convicts feel forced to lie on applications knowing they will be rejected if they tell the truth about their past. Smith questioned society’s priorities.

“We have second-class schools, but first-class prisons,” he said. “That’s a shame.”

Contract Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.